Living life and arriving safely at death

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Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Mark Batterson

“Be careful.”

“Stay safe.”

I say these phrases a lot. It’s habit. And I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. Safety is important – especially when it comes to our children. Unfortunately, we’ve become so concerned about safety that we act like it’s the only reason to live. We act like safety is the purpose of life. At least, I have acted like that from time to time. Mark Batterson has helped change my perspective about safety and the purpose of life.

His book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, is one of the books that changed my life when I first read it. It’s a relatively short read, but it’s packed with some powerful words. One of the quotes that hit me square between the eyes is this one:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

It’s the first point in his Lion Chaser Manifesto. If we live our lives concerned with safely arriving at the end of life, we set ourselves up for a life guided by fear. And a life dominated by fear leads to a lot of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back and wonder what might have been.

We’re not going to change the world by sitting idly by. We’re not going to change the world by allowing safety to be our only guiding force. If we’re going to change the world, we’re going to have to take risks. We might even have to live dangerously on occasion.

Yes, safety is something to consider. But it cannot be the driving force of our lives. It cannot be the purpose of our lives. Because when we use safety as our guiding force, we allow fear to creep in. We allow fear to control us.

And we all know that LOVE drives out fear.

When we live our lives full of fear, we miss out on the great adventure we were created to live. We live a less-than-full life. That not only impacts our lives, but the lives of the world around us.

No more fear. Live dangerously.

So live dangerously, my friends. Take a risk. It might be something as simple as walking next door and getting to know you neighbor. Or it might mean flying halfway around the world to stand in the gap for the voiceless, powerless, and oppressed. It might mean opening your home to a family of refugees. I don’t know where your journey will take you. But we cannot allow the idol of safety paralyze us. There is too much work to do. We have too much life to live.

So get up. Get moving. And change the world. That’s what love compels us to do.

That’s what we were made for. It’s what it means to live. And it behooves us to live.


If you’re interested in more about the Lion Chaser Manifesto, I recommend you check out these books. Let me warn you: they might change your life.

in-a-pit-with-a-lion-on-a-snowy-day chase-the-lion

 

Take The #40Pounds Challenge and change the world

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #40Pounds #CollectiveBias

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School has been in session for almost two months now. I know. You don’t have to say it. Many of you didn’t start school until Labor Day. But in order to have longer Fall, Winter, and Spring breaks, something has to give. So that means a shorter Summer for us. For our three teenagers, that wasn’t exactly happy news. For our youngest? Well, she started counting down the days as soon as school was out in May.

first-day-of-school-40pounds-ad

Yes. She’s a goofball. And we love her.

So now we’re just a few days away from the end of the first Nine Week Grading Period. That means we’ve had plenty of time to work out all the kinks and become a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine when it comes to getting our three high schoolers out the door and on the bus by 6:30 in the morning. Right?

Well, not exactly.

I’m not going to lie. It’s still pretty stressful in the minutes leading up to the bus’s arrival. But there are still a few tricks we’ve learned along the way. I’m happy to share the wisdom we have gained over the last two months.  Continue reading “Take The #40Pounds Challenge and change the world”

Leadership quotes

Leadership Quotes

This post may use affiliate links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

“Getting by”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that political season is in full swing as we are hurtling towards November’s General Election at breakneck speed. The two parties’ national conventions are behind us and I although I only listened to a few speeches during those two weeks, the fear-mongering was in full display. And now we’re about to be bombarded with even more negative ads after negative ads, accusing politician’s opponents of doing everything from willfully watching corporations send good-paying jobs overseas to secretly kicking puppies and taking candy from sweet, innocent children.

I fully expect a whole lot of arguments about why I should vote against candidates and not very many arguments about why I should vote for their opponents. Such is the nature of contemporary politics, unfortunately. But, hey, it works. Or so they say, anyway. I disagree. Shouting down your opponent isn’t winning. It’s bullying. Turning your opponent into a straw man caricature you can easily convince 51% of the people to vote against doesn’t give you a mandate. It’s just getting by.

Just “getting by” is not acceptable. It isn’t acceptable for my kids when they do their homework. It’s not acceptable at most jobs, either. So why is just “getting by” acceptable when it comes to our elected leaders?

Servanthood and leadership

As I was contemplating making a run at the governorship, I thought a lot about leadership and what I believe a public leader should be like. I thought back to one of my favorite classes from my seminary days. It gave me a lot of leadership concept to chew on. That was ten years ago. I’m still chewing on them.

I even went back to my notes from Dr. Wasem’s class. As I perused those notes, it strengthened my belief that true leadership isn’t displayed by those who shout the loudest or generate the most fear. Leadership is about servanthood. That’s the heartbeat of a leader. With that in mind, I wonder what our local, state and Federal governments would look like if leaders truly approached their positions as service opportunities – chances to get their hands dirty – instead of stepping stools and ways to grab more power. That’s what Hans Finzel says in
The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make
:

A servant leader must be willing to get ‘down and dirty’ with his [or her] troops in the implementation of his [or her] objectives.

Don’t get me wrong. I know some people who approach their leadership positions with true servants’ hearts. They are heroes. I wish politicians would emulate them more.

I also found a few quotes about leadership while I was reading. I think they’re worth sharing here:

Changes

Change is inevitable; not to change is a sure sign of imminent extinction. Hans Finzel

This is true in almost every area of life. Look at a teenager. Holy cow, things are changing every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. There’s also regular change in Church life, family life, society in general, world affairs, government, politics…you get the point?

Things change. It happens. So we look to leaders – servants who have gotten their hands dirty with us, who lead from the trenches – to help us navigate change. That’s how we move beyond merely surviving to thriving. And that’s what I want to do.

Change is inevitable. So why not make the most of it? Why not use it to expect our leaders to stop shooting for “just getting by” into the realm of dynamic, challenging, and inspirational leadership. That’s what our country needs.

Changing laws and changing hearts

And then there’s this quote. I like it. A lot. I’ve tried saying something similar. I even did it in one of the first posts I ever wrote. Mr. Greenleaf was just more succinct and eloquent.

we in the United States are more naive than most about what can be done with law, especially with the labyrinth of laws with which business is surrounded. It comes out better if one persuades rather than compels. Robert K. Greenleaf

I could easily write several posts that disagree with this quote. I could also write just as many posts supporting it. With that being said, I’d like for this quote to remind us that we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket if we want real, lasting change. And since change is going to happen anyway (see above), let’s pursue lasting change that makes a difference.

A change in leadership

Meaningful change can happen, folks. It can even happen in the midst of our national parties doing nothing but puffing themselves up while tearing their opponents down. We need real leadership. Servant leadership. And I imagine this happens from the ground up. It doesn’t require a top-level position. It does require dirty hands. And a servant’s heart.

I’m tired of putting people into power who are simply aiming to “get by,” aiming for the common denominator that gets them just enough votes to slip them into power. Aren’t you? Let’s do something about it.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a towel. Let’s get started. Let’s navigate change together and make the world a better place. Together. If we do that, maybe our politicians will follow our lead. If not, maybe we need some new leadership.

Who’s with me?

A worthwhile pursuit

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

Want an easy way to give clean water?

MudLOVE Cover

A few months ago, Aiden came home from a youth group retreat with a bracelet on his wrist. It was a MudLOVE band. Now, Aiden’s not the kind of guy to wear much jewelry, but this bracelet was different. He never took it off. He loves it. It’s his style. It has a good message and it’s for a good cause.

“If I’m ever raising money for a mission trip, I want to use them for a fundraiser,” he told us. It’s a pretty good fundraiser. You keep half the money raised from selling wrist bands or mugs. Plus, each item purchased provides one week of clean water for a person in the Central African Republic.

MudLOVE has partnered with Water for Good to help build and sustain wells in the Central African Republic. This is a life-saving, life-changing mission. Because clean water changes everything. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

MudLOVE mugs and bands help provide clean water to the Central African Republic.

So when we talked with Aiden about the possibility of needing to raise some funds to help cover the cost of his plane ticket to Ethiopia, he naturally suggested partnering with MudLOVE. Oh yeah – have I mentioned that Aiden is coming with us on this final adoption-related trip to Ethiopia? It just makes sense. He gets to experience his teenage brother’s homeland first-hand. And they get to spend some quality bonding time together before the craziness hits the fan when all SIX of us are finally under one roof together. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will probably change his life.

So he’s going.

He’s excited.

And we’re excited, too.

So to help offset some of the costs of adding him to our travel group (the grant organization that is paying for my plane ticket and Christy’s plane ticket won’t cover a sibling, which is totally understandable), Aiden has asked to host this fundraiser through MudLOVE. He loves these and he thinks you’ll love them, too!

A purchase of a bracelet or a mug will not only help him go to Ethiopia, but it will also help change the life of a person living in the midst of severe crisis.

So here’s the deal. Through MudLOVE, we are selling wrist bands and mugs. The Classic bands are $10 apiece if you choose one of the words that are already available. The word choices for these Classic Bands are: Beautiful, Believe, Blessed, Courage, Create, Dance, Dream, Faith, Family, Free, Friends, Grace, Hope, Imagine, Inspire, Joy, Laugh, Live, Love, Peace, Pray, Shine, Smile, Strength, and Trust.

Word choices for Classic Bands: Beautiful, believe, blesses, courage, create, dance, dream, faith, family, free, friends, grace, hope, imagine, inspire, joy, laugh, live, love, peace, pray, shine, smile, strength, trust.

You can also customize your band with your own unique message for $15 each. The maximum character limit is 13 characters, and you can use any combination of numbers and letters and a variety of special characters (like a cross, heart, ribbon, or music note – to name a few).

For either style of band, you can choose from these colors for the band’s elastic: White, Gray, Blue, Turquoise, Green, Lime,  Yellow, Gold, Orange, Pink, Red, Burgundy, Purple, Brown, Navy, and Black.

If you live outside of the Indianapolis or Evansville areas, please add $1.50 per 4 bracelets for shipping.

MudLOVE Mugs

We’re also able to offer some classy, hand-crafted mugs that are microwave and dishwasher safe. I’ll be honest. They’re beautiful. I wish I could buy them all. But that would defeat the purpose of a fundraiser. Right?

It’s the same concept as the bands. You can buy a classic mug for $25. Or you can customize your mug’s color and imprint for only $30.

Unfortunately, we don’t think we will be able to ship these. So unless there’s a way for us to meet in the Indianapolis or Evansville, IN, area – or if we’re planning on meeting sometime in the near future – please don’t order these mugs. I don’t think we can guarantee their safe arrival to your home.

Ready to order?

Great!

You can click my PayPal link and give all of the information there. Please include the type of band or mug (classic or custom) with the word(s) you’d like included, plus the color of your mug or the elastic. Don’t forget to include the $1.50 for shipping if we’re going to ship it out of state.

If you say it’s a good or service, PayPal will take out a fee. I’m just sayin’. Do with that what you will.

If you have any questions, concerns, or need clarification, please feel free to email me.

In order to have these items in-hand shortly after we return from Ethiopia, we’re going to place our MudLOVE order early Tuesday morning. So you have until Tuesday, 1/26, at 7:30 a.m. Eastern to place your order!

Thank you for your ongoing support of this adoption journey!

 

My New Year’s Resolution for 2016

Happy New Year

Well, 2015 has come and gone. And what a year it was! If you didn’t get a Christmas card with a letter included, don’t take it personal. We didn’t send any this year (again). Maybe next year?

So here’s a very brief look at some of our family highlights from 2015…

Aiden started his high school football career. Aly has taken her final year of middle school by the horns and is thriving as an 8th grader. Mihret was named her school’s Spotlight Student and was presented before the School Board.

Oh yeah, and Christy met our son for the first time.

Then five months later, I met him. And Weldu officially became a Todd.

Of course, there have been some bumps along the road. But 2015 was a pretty amazing journey.

My 2015 Best Nine
Thanks for the recap, 2015BestNine.com

As I look ahead to 2016, the year we should finally fill that empty seat at our table and have all SIX of us under one roof at the same time, it promises to be an exciting year. And I can’t wait.

I’ve never really been big on making New Year’s resolutions. I know a lot of people resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, get organized, spend less/save more, read the Bible regularly, or spend more time with family and friends. You know, the usual resolutions. Some have established SMART goals they want to achieve. They planned their work. Now they’re going to work their plans.

Those are great. If you have one of those resolutions, I hope you are able to keep it. I hope you can look back on December 31, 2016, and say “Yeah! I kicked that resolution in the teeth!”

Me? I don’t really have a resolution for 2016. Sure, there’s a lot I need to change. There’s a lot of me that needs fixing in the New Year. But I’m kind of taking a longer view on the changes that need to be made. This really isn’t a resolution for 2016. It’s more like a life goal. You could say it’s a New Year’s revolution.

I want to be known as a man of grace.

I don’t mean a guy who’s graceful on his feet like Fred Astaire.

Any hope for that kind of grace has been long-gone for a long time. Have you seen me try to dance? I’m no twinkle-toes. And I’m definitely no Fred Astaire. I’m much more like Matt Foley.

No. I’m not talking about my agility. I’m talking about having grace ooze out of every pore of my being. The way I see it, I can either be a man who is judgmental, trying to find the fault in every little thing. Or I can be a man full of grace, showering it on the world around me. I could be wrong about that. But if I have to be wrong, I’m going to choose to err on the side of grace. Because that’s what I’d hope people would do for me. Because, as the song says, grace wins. Every time.

When I come to the end of my days, and people gather together to put me in the ground, I want people to share stories about my compassion. I want the anecdotes people hear to be full of grace and forgiveness. There’s a lot of things I’d like to leave as a legacy for those closest to me. But at the top of the list, it’s grace.

I want to be known as a man of grace.

And I have such a long way to go before that happens. So I’m starting today.

What are your resolutions for 2016? What can I do to encourage you to keep that resolution?

Know their names. See their faces.

I know I’ve shared this quote before. But since it’s National Adoption Month, I think it’s worth sharing again.pablo (2)David Platt is right, unfortunately. “Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they are not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” (Radical, emphasis mine).

I hope this blog makes it harder to ignore these little ones. I hope our story helps give voice to the voiceless, a voice that is impossible to ignore or get out of your head. I hope that seeing their faces and knowing their names spurs you to act.

I’m not saying that you have to adopt a child in order to stop ignoring orphans. Let me be very clear about that. Adoption is not the only way to care for orphans. There are countless other things you can do to stand in the gap for these kids. And some of them might live right next door to you. You don’t have to go halfway around the world to be there for a child who is parentless. It might only take walking across the street.

Don’t just sit there and say “Oh, someone should do something for these kids,” and leave it at that. Together, we can do something. We can change their worlds.

We cannot ignore them anymore.

We must pay attention.

And everything will change.

It will change their worlds. But it will also change yours. See them and listen to them and know them. That’s the only way things are ever going to change.

Be the change today.

Please.

 

 

Then I watched God move a mountain. Again.

A “moved mountain” in Durame, Ethiopia

This adoption journey has been quite an emotional roller coaster with many unforeseen twists and turns. There might have even been a corkscrew or two thrown in there for good measure.

And it ain’t over yet.

But that’s OK. It’s kind of par for the course when it comes to international adoption. I’d imagine domestic adoption is a similar roller coaster ride.

Christy finally met “W” face-to-face. It’s been great for the soul and I hope that it will continue to warm his heart after she returns to the States.

Jeremiah 29:11. I’m sorry you had to wait so long…but I am so thankful God blessed us with you.

A photo posted by Christy Ooley Todd (@ooleytodd) on

Two more trips are required before he comes home with us. Sometime in the Fall, I hope to be able to meet “W” for the first time. During my stay in Ethiopia, I will appear before a judge and declare that yes, he is the child we’ve been trying to adopt. If all goes according to plan, “W” will then be declared our son in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. Then I’ll return home shortly after that court date. A few weeks later, we should have an appointment with the US Embassy in Addis. Christy and I will fly to Ethiopia, meet with the Embassy, and bring “W” home after that. Hopefully that will happen before Christmas of this year.

That’s the way things are supposed to happen. That’s the way the timeline generally goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it happens for us. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t happen that way, either. Because here’s what we’ve learned during this journey: God is writing this story. We are not. And the Author is going to weave this story together in whatever way He sees fit.

In high school, I wanted to do something “big” for God. I never knew exactly what it was, but I was going to shock the world with the gospel. So I kept searching for that big thing I could “do” for Jesus. I don’t think I was wrong in my desire. I might have been a little misguided in my approach. But hey, I was a teenager. I think we all were a little misguided as teenagers, weren’t we?

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

This desire to “do” something big for God continued into my preaching years more than a decade later. I firmly believe that God can work miracles. I’ve seen them happen. It was my hope and prayer that I could somehow put God on stage and allow the congregation to see what God had done. It was almost as if I was expecting Him to perform some great act so I could shine the spotlight on Him.

Again, not a bad desire. But maybe the wrong approach. After all, God is God. He doesn’t have to perform a miracle in order for us to shine the spotlight on Him. He is worthy of worship because He Is who He Is. And that’s enough.

Then we saw God move a mountain.

God orchestrated things in such a way that He provided for Mihret’s adoption in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.

So when we started pursuing “W,” I kind of expected things to work out in a similar way. I mean, that was a pretty cool story the way everything was woven together so perfectly.

But that organization didn’t award us a grant this time. No worries, I thought. There are other opportunities. So we applied for more grants. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We had the yard sale that was hugely successful. But it wasn’t enough to cover the rest of the fees.

So we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

Then things started to get a little…oh, what’s the word?….tense…around here. If Christy was really going to make this trip before the courts closed in Addis and school started here, we were going to have to figure out a way to cover the rest of the fees and travel costs. Maybe we were going to have to make this thing work on our own.

Then it happened. God moved mountains.

Not only did God move the mountains, He obliterated them. He caused them to melt like wax.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord Psalm 975

We were confident that God was going to use the matching grant from Hand in Hand to make a big dent in the need. But we didn’t know how much was actually going to be donated. There was still a lot of uncertainty. And maybe some doubt.

But the donations that were contributed to the matching grant were over the amount necessary.

Then we started getting notifications of approval for grants that I had totally forgotten about. And I’d definitely forgotten that we’d applied for their assistance. But they started sending in money.

And the next thing I knew, everything was paid for. The agency fees. Christy’s plane ticket. Even the in-country travel fees. Everything was covered within a matter of days.

Yes, God is in the mountain moving business.

As I sat and watched the whole thing unfold, I started to realize something. Sometimes “doing” something big for God simply means being obedient and stepping out in faith. You do what you’re supposed to, planting seeds as you go along the way. But in the end, you sit back and watch God do what you couldn’t even possibly imagine what would be done.

All week, I’ve been humming this song. It makes sense when you look back on the events of the last few weeks. It starts at the 5:58 mark…

God is writing a story, friends. And it is bigger than any of us even realize.

If you get a sense that God is calling you to “do” something, then go do it. By all means, do.it. But if you think God is calling you to go and watch and listen, then do that. Watch how He works. He’ll let you know when it’s time for you to do your part. Because He’s already at work. He’s already telling the story.

 

Partner with Fair Trade Friday and help change the world!

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OK, here’s the deal. I had heard about Fair Trade Friday before. I had heard of Mercy House before. But I don’t think I’d really heard about their ministry. When I agreed to join the Fair Trade Friday blogging team, my eyes were opened and I am in love.

fair trade necklace

While they do have to occasional Box that’s geared towards men, I’m not likely to wear many of the accessories that come in a Fair Trade Friday Box or Earring of the Month shipment, I know my wife loves them. And if she loves them, I love them. But that’s not all that I love about this effort. The beautiful products are actually just a tiny part of why I love Fair Trade Friday.

I am in love with what they’re doing. I’m in love with the fact that they’re empowering women around the world. I’m in love with their passion. I am in love with how one person’s vision and obedience to God’s calling has changed the lives of countless people.

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I know what you’re asking. What’s Fair Trade Friday all about? It’s about empowerment. It’s about it’s about opportunity. It’s about ending the cycle of poverty. It’s about uplifting women who feel like they’re forgotten.

It’s about changing the world.

A ministry of Mercy House Kenya, Fair Trade Friday has partnered with 27 faith-based organizations in 19 countries. The primary purpose of these faith-based organizations? The empowerment of marginalized women.

Mercy House from Petro Studios on Vimeo.

These partnerships have provided steady jobs for over 1,00 women.

Like these women in Ethiopia.

ethiopian woman creating

One bag for the Earring of the Month Club provides work for three (yes, THREE!) women. Something so small. Something so seemingly insignificant. Something so life-changing.

EOTMbag

THAT’S why I love Fair Trade Friday. Ethiopian woman making beads

 

That’s why I think you should, too.

One of the taglines that Fair Trade Friday uses is “Change the world. Look good doing it.” It’s really that simple. And by doing this, you’re helping to change women’s stories around the world. How amazing is that?

Convinced? Here’s what to do.

There are several ways you can help change the world with these amazing products:

  • Join the Fair Trade Friday ClubEach month, you’ll receive a box with three to four surprise goodies, like stylish accessories, organic soap, or a bag of coffee. This club is kind of exclusive because there’s only so much product to go around. But that’s OK. They have a waiting list! Cost: $31.99/month. You can cancel at any time.
  • Try a One-Time Box! It includes all the cool stuff from the Fair Trade Friday Box for you to enjoy. You can order it for yourself or send it as a gift! Cost: $35.00 + $10 shipping.
  • Join the Earring of the Month Club! You’ll receive a high-quality pair of earrings and a beautiful reusable bag every month. If they’re sold out? Join the wait list!  Cost: $11.99/month.
  • You can always purchase something from the Mercy Shop! They have some pretty amazing products over there. Like t-shirts, jewelry, and fundraising opportunities.Oh.

    And this framed art:

Rolled Art -AfricaSo what are you waiting for? 100% of the proceeds benefit maginalized women around the world. It only takes a few bucks to change a woman’s story. Start partnering with Fair Trade Friday today.

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Note: With the exception of the necklace photo, all images appear thanks to Fair Trade Friday.